“80 percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen
The first step in setting someone on the path to consistent care is simply getting them to and from their appointments.
It’s encouraging then to see that the rapidly growing ride-hailing app companies, Uber and Lyft, have both stepped in as an option to fill the void in medical transportation. In New York City, Lyft has teamed with National Medtrans Network for a pilot program offering 2,500 rides per week for non-emergency patients. Uber announced that it will be working with MedStar Health, connecting patients to rides to its 10 hospitals in Maryland and Washington, DC.
Missed appointments due to unreliable or unavailable transportation are a major barrier to addressing population health. Approximately 3.6 million Americans miss or have to delay a medical care appointment due to a transportation issue. Our most vulnerable population, including the disadvantaged, represent a significant portion of these individuals. It has been reported that 25 percent of low-income patients in both urban and suburban areas miss appointments because they can’t get to the doctor’s office. For patients suffering from chronic conditions, the need for reliable transportation is even more acute and compounds other social determinants many patients are struggling to overcome.
Lyft’s start in the medical transportation service is targeting urban seniors, many of whom may be isolated or homebound and lack a network of relatives, friends, and neighbors for securing transportation. Lyft is also addressing the fact that many seniors do not own smartphones by offering a web-based booking-platform that does not require access through a mobile device.
For it’s part, Uber’s program features a “Ride with Uber” option button on MedStar’s website that can be utilized at the time of booking an appointment. The patient will then get information on wait times, estimated cost, and reminders on the day of the appointment.
These examples of partnerships are a step in the right direction. Missed appointments are a huge problem for U.S. hospitals, practices, and health plans, costing them an estimated $150 billion annually. Medicaid spending on transportation totals nearly $3 billion annually alone. These innovative partnerships have the potential to reduce the cost of complex care by aiding prevention. When patients put off preventative care due lacking transportation, they add billions in expense when an ailment becomes an emergency and they have to call for an ambulance.
These efforts represent innovative thinking to plug in a nascent technology where it makes sense for population health. Significantly, these programs also have the potential to align with many people’s lives right where they’re already living – their smartphones. The next step will be to further focus this medical transportation solution on our most vulnerable populations and grow this innovation beyond the test cities to medically underserved suburban and even rural areas.
If we can get patients to their healthcare providers, every time and on time, we may be a lot further along to successful outcomes than just 80 percent.